Review by superbobhead
"Who knew geometry could be fun (again)?"
When the 360 launched back in November '05, Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved quickly became THE must play game, which was an unprecedented accomplishment considering that the title was only available online. When rumors began to surface of a sequel a few years later, many gamers found themselves returning to the previous installments, from the hidden bonus games in the PGR games to the retail releases on Wii and DS to practice, but nothing could prepare anyone for the second onslaught of the stellar gameplay of Retro Evolved 2. Taking all of the other games innovations and praises and improving on them in unthinkable ways, Retro Evolved 2 is a must-play and must-own title for any 360 owner, regardless of how you feel about the twin stick shooter genre. Where many others fail, Geometry Wars has returned to show everyone why it was hailed king of the 360 launch and is still one of the most successful titles on XBLA to this day.
Gameplay - 10/10
The original Geometry Wars, a simple yet addictive game found in the car gallery of Project Gotham Racing 2 quickly became one of the biggest attractions of that title and already had a dedicated following of gamers, even though the basic gameplay was simple and the graphics reinstating that. When Retro Evolved arrived, the simple shooter received a much needed facelift, added in a bit more variety in terms of the enemies, and showed gamers how addictive it could be when you were playing to get "just a few more points to go up a few spots, and then call it a night". While it was known for it's pick up and play gameplay, people were quickly drawn in to see how far they could push their own scores while trying to gain bragging rights among their own circle of friends to reach the highest spots on the leaderboard. For it's time, the game was perfect and still holds up remarkably well to this day. When the Wii and DS versions arrived, they introduced new gameplay modes and a multiplier system that stemmed largely from collecting floating gems called "geoms", all wrapped up in a game that presented the player with multiple planets to visit, each with their own goals. Finally, taking cues from all of the former, Retro Evolved 2 arrived during the flurry of stellar arcade titles over Summer '08, removing the planet system and instead opting for several incredibly different gameplay modes that were all twists on the standard "shoot em all" formula the title had become associated with. Each gameplay mode has it's own leaderboard and the first thing it shows you when you sign in and look at the list of modes is the top scores on your friends list, which is motivation in itself to try to be the best at all of them. The modes themselves range from the standard Retro Evolved mode, which consists of you playing as long as you can, surviving against a constant onslaught of enemies, a new pacifism mode, where your objective is to run for your life, passing through gates to detonate large chains of enemies in order to score more points while being unable to shoot, to waves mode, which has a number of ships that appear on screen and fly back and forth until you eliminate them, making more and more spawn in different directions, then throwing in obstacles. Any single one of these modes on it's own would have been worth the price of entry, but considering that you have all of them for the low price of the game, there's absolutely no reason not to have it in your library. It's a quick to learn game, but thanks to the additional modes, the new geoms, and a new multiplier system, there is a lot more depth than anyone could have ever anticipated and the game definitely rewards those that invest time, yet appeals to almost anyone that gives it a try.
Sound - 8/10
The theme of geometry destroying (as I like to refer to it) has returned, to mixed results. On one hand, it's one of the most infectious songs in an XBLA title, almost capturing the classic feel of the nightmare inducing Tetris theme or the Overworld theme in Super Mario Bros. 1, but it's pretty much the only song in the game. The best use of the song is during Deadline, where the further you get into your two minute run, the more the music begins to swell, almost as if the intensity of the game is determined more by the soundtrack than the players' actual skill. After a few hours of hearing this song, either you're going to love it and find yourself humming along or quickly looking for a custom soundtrack to replace it. The sound effects are pretty much the same from the prior outings as well, which isn't necessarily a bad thing and in a title like this, you really don't want the sound to be overly complex as it would detract the players attention from the frantic on-screen action. While there are no new sound effects or songs, it's a really nice addition when you find yourself being able to recognize what enemy is about to spawn as soon as you hear certain indication, such as the ticking sound that's made before random enemies pop up in the corners to the digitized swishing sound the snakes make or the wave sound as those tinier swarms make as the continue to spawn out of the corners, telling you exactly how many are coming without you having to stare at them and take your eye off the danger in front of you. You'll also grow to love the sound of a 1up as you have billions of enemies chasing you and billions of others in front of you.
Graphics - 9/10
The first time you start to play it, you probably won't notice that the graphics are even more overhauled than in the previous outings for the series, but I can guarantee you that once you start to play this game for a while, you'll find it hard to go back to any of the others. The excessive particle effects are back and look better than ever, especially when you start going for multipliers using black holes and gates, and then watching as countless enemies all explode into a puff of geometric stardust before your eyes. The background is very minimalistic, but that's actually incredibly desirable for a twin stick shooter such as this. The colors are more vivid than ever, making the game an incredible experience to watch to player and onlookers alike. While it might not have complex water color art or detailed bump mapping, what is here is something that's very visually pleasing to look at in a simple manner that is aided by insane particle explosions of your helpless enemies.
Overall - 9/10
This is one of those must buy titles on the 360. It's not as complicated as Halo or anything, but you'll quickly find yourself playing this over other titles as you slowly start to log in, planning on playing just one game, then convincing yourself that with just one more, you'll be able to push your score up just a little bit higher to beat another one of your friends. Thanks to the multiplier mechanic and leaderboards that are present the moment you load the game, you will quickly begin to sink hours at a time into this title that you may have been planning to spend on another game instead. While you may get into a few game streaks where you're dying almost instantly, the frustration is kept to a bare minimum with how quickly you're able to restart your session in seconds without any loading whatsoever and the more you'll play, the better you'll find yourself getting and understanding the mechanics more. Considering that the last game in the series was a retail title and all of the modes present in Retro Evolved 2 (any of them easily being worth 10$), this is one of the best values you can find on XBLA and deserves a place on every gamers hard drive.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 12/23/08
Game Release: Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 (US, 07/30/08)
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